By Walter Broeckx
When looking back at the Zagreb match the only thing I can say is that it sure had a few moments of utter brilliance in it. And even a few of those moments not even resulted in a goal in fact. And we had a few top class performers all over the field.
If we look at the first goal it was a brilliant run from Özil. He started even deep in the Arsenal half when the ball was played to the left to Flamini who then gave it to Alexis.
Giroud and Özil saw the opportunity and sprinted to be in the penalty area. If you do have the chance to see them running the difference in style was amazing to see. Özil ran fast but it looked as if he was just gliding over the pitch… hardly touching the grass with his shoes.
But the fact that Giroud made his run to the first post was the key factor. Because the central defender followed Giroud as he was the man to mark of course and by doing this he opened the heart of the Dinamo defence. The cross from Alexis was inch perfect but I can imagine that Özil will ask him to give it a bit further away from the keeper next time. Now Özil had to dive in and in a way he was lucky to avoid a frontal collision with the keeper.
But what a fine move that was also from the players who didn’t touch the ball. And Özil scoring with his head… also not a daily sight.
The second goal was down to Monreal being in a striker position doing what a defender does well: intercept a pass. He then glided past his man as if he was Santi Cazorla (I first thought it was Santi) and then cut back the ball inch perfect for Alexis to score his first goal.
What a left back Monreal has become. In a way it is a bit unfortunate for him that Coquelin and Bellerin have grabbed the headlines when it comes to players having made the biggest step forward. I think Monreal has proved that Wenger was right in signing him in January a few seasons ago. He really has settled down in the PL since more than a year and is probably the best left back in the PL now. I hope for Arsenal’s sake that Del Bosque doesn’t read this.
The third goal was a massive pass from Campbell. He saw the possible opening, he saw Alexis looking for the opening and delivered a ball that had the right pace and precision. An Özilesque pass one could say. Alexis still had to round the keeper and his quick feet did the job in a great way.
I really hope that this is the match that Campbell needed to make himself aware that he really is good enough for Arsenal. I hope this will give him confidence to do this match after match. Because I was not just impressed with his attacking game but also because of his defensive work. On more than one occasion he came back and dispossessed the Dinamo players of the ball when they tried to create a dangerous attack.
His work ethic was impeccable over the whole 90 minutes. Even when visibly getting tired he kept on running back whenever he could and should. It was as if Ramsey sitting on the bench was his signal to step it up.
One of my favourite moments however didn’t really result in a goal. The neck-control from Alexis. I think it was Flamini or Ramsey with a long ball over the top to launch him in space. Alexis seemed to realise that if he let the ball hit the ground it might get too much pace to keep it in or to control it.
So while running he jumped up and controlled the ball in his neck. Okay I know professional football players can do those tricks in training as if it is nothing. But to do this in a match after more than one hour of football is something completely different. The fact that Alexis landed badly and almost lost his footing was the reason why he had to readjust himself and he lost his pace by doing so. Just imagine Alexis scoring after such a ridiculous piece of skill…. I think I would have jumped in to my computer screen in an attempt to embrace him. It would have been painful I think and don’t know if my screen would have survived it. [I was half way over the balcony in the Upper East before my neighbours managed to pull me back – Tony]
And then I haven’t even mentioned the moment when Alexis tried to lift the ball over his head from between both his legs in a crowded penalty area. It almost worked out but he was out crowded by the Dinamo defenders. But he sure has a few things in his coffers that make him a special player.
Talking about special players. A few hours before the match Özil posted a picture on his Facebook page. Just a picture indicating that it was match day today. But what I found interesting was the mood he said he was: determined. That was what he said. And he sure was determined to give it all.
The only downside on his performance yesterday was … that he didn’t assist anyone! But for once he took the duty of scoring on himself and scored that oh so vital first goal.
I know it is a not done to highlight too much these players that made the goals. Because the whole team was really in the mood to make things right. The work rate of all the players was as it should be. Maybe the WBA match reminded them a bit of this. But I do think other factors like losing two players with injury and certainly Coquelin was hard to take in that match and difficult to readjust.
Also delighted to see Ramsey back on the field. Still a bit rusty but full of energy and playing wherever the boss tells him to play. Welcome back Dad Aaron. Hope the baby doesn’t keep you awake too much!
The Untold Books
Woolwich Arsenal the club that changed football, is now available on Kindle at £9.99. For more details and to buy a copyplease click here or go to Amazon Kindle and search forWoolwich Arsenal.
- Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football – Arsenal’s early years
- Making the Arsenal – how the modern Arsenal was born in 1910
- The Crowd at Woolwich Arsenal
- Danny Karbassiyoon – what’s it like? By Danny Karbassiyoon
- Arsenal: The Long Sleep 1953-1970. By John Sowman. Introduction by Bob Wilson.